The Iranian-American human rights artist addresses the personal, cultural, and political in her flags, journals and photographs.
Sara Rahbar was Born in 1976 in Tehran Iran, but Left with her family during the revolution in the beginning of the Iran Iraq war. But having to escape her own country and leave her family behind, left a gap in her. It some how did not seem quit right to have to abandon her home because of a war and a revolution that had nothing to do with her. Through out the years she has killed off dealing with the confusion and anger left in her, and now through her work she is addressing it. she now lives and works between New York and Iran.
Rahbar went on to study fine art in London and design in new york. she has shown in various galleries all over America, and recently her work has been featured in the queens museum of art biennial where she was chosen out of 52 artists to be a teaching artist and to also do a second piece for the biennial, where she choose to do a room-sized installation on the subject of war in the Middle East.
She has been a teaching artist for various programs such as; Woman for Afghan Woman , as well as a professional development program for correctional educators at the queens museum of art. Rahbar’s art work has such an educational and healing presence, that is has been used for art therapy workshops, for severely disabled children at the Queens Museum of Art.
She has been an art director for the Persian Arts Festival, as well as a film Photographer and Production Coordinator for various films and projects, Rahbar has also been a freelance photographer in Iran for several years . Her work has been reviewed and praised in a multitude of prominent publications such as; The New York Times, BBC Persian, Time Out New York, Tehran Magazine, Namack, Radio Farda, Venuszine, Iranian, Persian Mirror, Queens Chronicle, Queens International 2006 Everything All at Once, Vol 3 Oct 2006, she has done collaborations with various prominent artists in iran and in new york, such as; Jaishri Abichandani ( their collaboration was shown at Ps1), as well as other artist such as Renzo Ortega and hosein Gourchian.
Here is what has been said about Rahbar’s work;
'Rahbar's Flag proclaims its political stance immediately.'
Shelley Walker, Artist and Writer,
Changing Climate,Changing Colors: 24 Contemporary Muslim Artists 2007
'Sara Rahbar's ambitions for her work are simularly to break down the delineations that divide communities. Rahbar was born in Tehran, Iran and escaped with her family to New York when the revolution began in 1979. After completing studies in art in London she returned to Iran to work on a documentary film on the youth culture of Iran, as well as to document the 2005 presidential elections. For Queens international, she has created a hyper-active specific installation consisting of collaged, culturally charged textiles, emotionally aggressive paintings and reveling photographs of Iranian youth, the presidential elections and other scenes from life in Tehran. The piece evokes the complex and tumultuous life in present-day Iran, countering the western media's one-dimensional portrayal of the country as filled with war-inciting Muslim extremists.
In many ways, Rahbar's work perfectly embodies the subtitle of this year's Queens International-Everything All at Once. Her work has no time for irony and seeks a larger purpose for art, one that isn't obsessed with failure and narcissistic death wishes that have become mannered in too much contemporary art. Instead, like many other artists in the exhibition, she uses her art to engage the audience in a dialog about our status as citizens in a very fragile world. It seems appropriate to end this essay in her words': ' I move the focus away from male and female, Muslim and Jewish, American and Iranian, and I look at a bigger picture. There was a time when I was constantly questioning me culture, religion, and my identity. I have finally come to the conclusion that the only thing I want to do is shed these titles that have created so much separation between us. We are all human beings attempting to survive ourselves, our lives, and each other. I don't believe in the boarders and separation created by the devotion toward a flag, a county, or a religion. My intention and my driving force is to focus on our similarities rather our differences.'
Queens State of Mind, The co-curator of Queens International 2006
“Sara Rahbar, an artist of roughly the same age says, 'I never considered myself an immigrant or a woman, only a human being...the only time I feel like a feminist, and remember that I am a woman is when I am in Iran. From the moment I wake up till the end of everyday...I am attempting to prove that I am strong...attempting to claim basic human rights, attempting to get the job done and moving mountains to do so. In America it does not even occur to me that I am a woman, I am independent, and feel that I can do anything a man can do.'
Reterritorializing Queens, The co-curator of Queens International 2006,
Director of public projects, founder of SWCC, the south Asian Woman's creative Collective,
and a practicing artist.
'Sara Rahbar’s work details the experience of being Iranian-American with a mash-up of U.S. references (the Stars and Stripes) and Iranian ones (textiles, for example), presented through collage, photographs and writing; '
TimeOut New York
“Queens International: Everything All at Once”. By Kate Lowenstein 2006
'Just inside the entrance, a collaborative installation, “Nobody’s Enemy,” recreates the look of a living room in a Middle East war zone, with walls pockmarked by shrapnel, and furniture and carpets covered with dusty grime
As in “Greater New York” and this year’s Whitney Biennial, war is not left unaddressed by artists like Ms. Rahbar, Andrew Hur, Renzo Ortega, Jiyun Park and the collective Still Present Past.'
New York Times Art & Design Art Review
Queens International 2006 Art From Everywhere, All From Queens By Martha Schwendener
I never considered myself an immigrant, an Iranian, an American, a woman, or even an artist. Only a human being seeking to survive, digest and understand, myself and the world around me and in this process possibly contributing something. I address current events in my work. I focus on injustices. Its about self dissection and self comprehension. I strongly believe that in the process of understanding one self, we begin to understand others and the world around us. I question what we are made up of and what makes us who we are. Is it, our religion, our nationalities, our culture, our pasts or our geographic location?
I question what our lives are about and who we are in them.
I address roles we play, and masks we sometimes wear. I move the focus away from, gender, race and religion, to look at a bigger picture. Their was a time when I was constantly questioning my culture, my religion and my identity. I have finally come to the conclusion, that the only thing I want to do with these titles that have created so much separation between us, is shed them. I don’t believe in boarders created by the devotion towards a flag, a country, or a religion. My intention and my driving force is to focus on our similarities rather than our differences.
Rahabr is presently working in Iran on a new flag series and photography series. She is also taking a workshop with Abbas KIarostami in which she will complete a series of short films. She is also keeping a journal that will address the thought processes behind her work, her travels, and Iran. Here is one of her latest entrees,
February 18 2007
Is it my thick eyebrows, or my charcoal eyes that scares you so... Is it the color in my dress, or the gold in my skin..... Does my dark night hair play tricks on you..... I wonder now who I was meant to be, something for you or for me. There is a silence left in me , its quiet inside of me.
Being in Iran feels like im living in a billion dollar hotel on my knees. 3000 years of survival and we are left with this...
we nearly got arrested today because Neda’s (the film maker that I am traveling with) hejab slipped off of her head just for a minute in the car. So they pulled us over and terrorized us a bit. The police claimed that she was with out hejad, In English its like claiming that someone was naked. They harassed us, nearly fined us and by fined I mean forced us to bribe them, wasted our time, just to show us who is in charge, and attempt to scare us a bit.
I wonder if I am a slave, a servant , a victim or a warrior. Or perhaps my only crime is being a woman in modern day Iran. I take on so many identities through out a single day ,that I am forgetting who I am. I feel displaced being a woman in Iran. But the Iran that once was, the Iran that all Iranians hold in their hearts still lingers in the cracks of this new place....this new place that I still don’t recognize. These people, these conversations, who are we and who will we become... These streets sing to me...they too want to be freed , I want to free them, so that I can free me.
there is no talk of war here, its silent in these streets. Everyone is on survival mode and they are more concerned with the rising prices of meat, bread and every day commodities than president bushes rambling. Democracy does not concern hungry bellies and tiered souls. The youth continue to play while the rest of the country slaves for ends meat. This is not America, there are no food stamps, no welfare, only running every day , all day for a scrap to eat.
Being here only shows me how the American media plays tricks on our minds, the Iran that I see and hear about in America is a world away from the Iran that I see before me.
There is an angel at my table, I can hear him talking to me. I told him that I am waiting for happiness, he turned to me and said, until I stop waiting I will never be free.